Son of French soldier killed in WWII files compensation claim in Germany

The son of a French soldier who was killed during World War II after being forced to fight for the Nazis has filed a complaint against Germany, demanding the same compensation as orphans of German soldiers.

Son of French soldier killed in WWII files compensation claim in Germany
An exhibition is Alsace remembering the 'Malgre Nous'. Photo: AFP

The father of Gerard Michel was one of 130,000 French soldiers from the Alsace region of eastern France conscripted into German forces in World War II. 

The group are known as the “Malgre Nous” (Against our Will).

“Germany refuses to compensate us in the same way as the German orphans, telling us we're not German,” Michel told AFP.

“But they dragged away our dads, labelling them as German – whether they liked it or not,” he said, noting that he is asking for “exactly the same compensation as German war orphans and widows – not a cent more, not a cent less.” 

Michel filed the complaint over the forced conscription of both his father and uncle in 1944 and 1943 at the public prosecutor's office in Strasbourg, alleging a crime against humanity, he told AFP, confirming a report by regional daily L'Alsace.

The Malgre Nous soldiers received a one-off payment after France and Germany reached an agreement in 1981. But they did not receive monthly German benefits, as they were considered French veterans.

“My father sacrificed himself… leaving behind my pregnant mother. He was buried in a mass grave in Poland, like so many others, and Germany has not even apologised,” Michel said.

He said that French orphans of fathers killed fighting for Germany received €920 under the 1981 accord. But he complained that a person who had volunteered for the SS could collect €400 a month or €192,000 over a 40-year period. 

“That's 200 times more,” Michel said.

In June, the French Armed Forces ministry confirmed that five ex-soldiers were among the 54 people in France who receive German World War II pensions. 

In February, the confirmation that a handful of Nazi collaborators in Belgium still receive German benefits sparked outrage.

These monthly benefits are awarded to Belgian citizens who worked with the German Wehrmacht, as well as those forcibly conscripted from the annexed parts of eastern Belgium. 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron

French forces "tortured and murdered" Algerian freedom fighter Ali Boumendjel during his country's war for independence, President Emmanuel Macron admitted on Tuesday, officially reappraising a death that was covered up as a suicide.

French forces tortured and murdered Algerian freedom fighter in 1950s, admits Macron
Malika, the widow of Ali Boumendjel, pictured in 2001. Photo: Stefan Fferberg/AFP

Macron made the admission “in the name of France” during a meeting with Boumendjel’s grandchildren.

The move comes after Macron in January refused to issue an official apology for abuses committed during the occupation of Algeria – instead, he agreed to form a “truth commission” as recommended by a report commissioned by the government to shed light on France’s colonial past.

Atrocities committed by both sides during the 1954-1962 Algerian war of independence continue to strain relations between the countries.

Boumendjel, a nationalist and lawyer, was arrested during the battle of Algiers by the French army, “placed incommunicado, tortured, and then killed on 23 March 1957,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

“Ali Boumendjel did not commit suicide. He was tortured and then killed,” Macron told Boumendjel’s grandchildren, according to the statement.

It is not the first time the real cause of death was acknowledged.

In 2000, the former head of French intelligence in Algiers Paul Aussaresses confessed to ordering Boumendjel’s death and disguising the murder as a suicide, according to the statement.

It added that Macron on Tuesday had also reiterated his desire to give families the opportunity to find out the truth about this chapter of history.

Last month, Boumendjel’s niece Fadela Boumendjel-Chitour denounced what she called the “devastating” lie the French state had told about her uncle.

French historian Benjamin Stora, who wrote the government-commissioned report, has said there is a “never-ending memory war” between the two countries.

The report has been described by the Algerian government as “not objective” and falling “below expectations.”

During his 2017 election campaign, Macron – the first president born after the colonial period – declared that the occupation of Algeria was a “crime against humanity”.

He has since said there was “no question of showing repentance” or of “presenting an apology” for abuses committed in the North African country.